Le Pigeon – Portland, Oregon
We have really grown to appreciate the fine dining experience and try to fit in one when we travel to a new place. Since we were celebrating Kevin’s birthday, I knew it had to be somewhere extra special. It was difficult to pick and while I was tempted to just book more than one, I know our stomachs and wallets would be thankful to stick to one. After much research, we decided on Le Pigeon for French inspired fine dining.
We had reservations for 7PM on Thursday and we arrived to a quiet restaurant. Our initial thought was since it was a Thursday this dining style was not as popular but later in the night it changed to a completely packed house. The decor was classic, fun and casual – it actually reminded us of Frenchie’s as it has a relaxed feel for a fine dining establishment.
While we reviewed the menu options ahead of time, it barely helped with our decision. The a la carte options all looked fantastic which led us to thinking the tasting menu would reflect the same level of quality. After speaking at length with our server, we decided on the seven course tasting menu with wine pairing (it was a birthday celebration after all!) and relinquish control to the chef.
Bread service was brought out first – a french baguette with sea salted butter. A classic that is hard to refuse.
Dish: Geoduck Crudo with strawberry relish, grilled shiitake, and strawberry dashi
So many new words! Geoduck is a a large clam – the one that has its tongue sticking out all the time. Crudo is raw. So far we have a raw clam. Dashi is Japanese soup stock so this was a soup of strawberry. So basically, it was a cold soup of strawberries, mushrooms, and raw clam all stacked together in one of those bundles. I found it very refreshing and for having so many strawberries, it did not overwhelm the flavors but providing a cooling sensation for the savory ingredients.
Wine: Cava Brut Rosé — Reserva — Avinyó — 2017 Penedè
While I can do without the bubbles, this was very pleasant and paired really well with the dashi. There was so much pink on the table! Light and refreshing, just like the dish.
Dish: Oxtail Baklava with barbeque sweet breads, saffron pickles, cherry hot sauce and macrona almonds
I do not think I could properly describe how incredible this dish was. Every time we have had oxtail in a creative way, it is phenomenal and this was no exception. The baklava itself was layers of pastry and oxtail but there was something else (I do not know what it was) that added the element of char that set this far over the touchdown line. I can only say it was burnt but in the best way, such smoky goodness. I could have easily been done the tasting, that’s how good this dish was. I also loved the sweet breads – seasoned wonderfully and very flavorful. I could not wait to see what else was in store if I was already gushing at dish two!
Wine: Sauvignon Blanc — Il Nido — Buona Notte — 2018 Columbia Gorge
Oh all the noms for this wine! New Zealand certainly opened us up more to Sauvignon Blanc. This Oregon wine was unique because the skins are left on for much longer and with a later harvest it produces a deeper color and tropical flavor. The acidity helps cut into the richness of the dish as well. Another great pairing!
Dish: Halibut with a black olive vinaigrette, fried salted cod, and confit potatoes
What a beautiful dish! A perfectly cooked fish that somehow ate like a steak. It was flaky, tender, and a generous portion for a tasting size. The super star on the plate thought was these salted cod fried balls of goodness. It took me back to our meal Curate when we first experienced them. Can’t forget those little bitty potatoes – they did not last on the plate very long.
Wine: Chardonnay — Black Label — Morgen Long — 2017 Willamette Valley
We were thrilled that we were getting pairings with local wines! It’s funny – we got this poured before the dish came out and tasting this we instantly knew a fish was en route. This buttery chardonnay cuts with the fish to create harmonious flavors. Even on its own, this was a fabulous wine.
Dish: Veal and Pigeon Pelmeni with sherry foie gras broth, sour cream, and chives
Certainly the plot twist of the meal – having the hunking piece of fish with all the fixings to four little ravioli looking things. Another new word! Pelmeni – a Russian dumpling made with thin, unleavened dough. I was hoping for foie gras in this tasting but surprised that our first taste was as a broth. A delicious broth do not get me wrong – this was “scarpetta” (use the bread to soak up the liquid) good. And this little “pelmeni” while small were very tasty. Could have popped a few more of these for sure.
Wine: Pinot Noir — Le Puits Sec — Evesham Wood — 2015 Eola-Amity Hills
We have turned to the red side! Which means bigger glasses. Another Oregon special – how could they serve Pinot Noir from anywhere else? What I loved about this wine is the smoky quality as it amplified the foie gras broth and the meat inside the pelmeni. Lovely pairing!
Dish: Apricot Glazed Pigeon with roasted carrots, crispy quinoa, and pork and pigeon chou farci
The pigeon dish! We were very excited to see this appear at our table. This dinner has been quite a gourmet vocabulary lesson! Chou farci is a stuffed cabbage with pork meat (or in this case pork and pigeon) where the leaves protect the meat when boiling to cook. This pigeon wing was so incredible. The outside apricot glaze was just stunningly delicious forming a caramelization that made the skin outstanding. It also penetrated the meat which has this great dark meat richness to it. Oh, and the veggies were a nice addition of course.
Wine: Zweigelt — Judith Beck — 2017 Burgenland
We have not had a wine made with Zweigelt before. This Austrian grape is the most planted grape in Austria and it was described as somewhere between a Pinot Noir and a bolder red wine. The richness of this dish required something with a little more body and acidity and I think the Zweigelt accomplished this with the pigeon dish.
Dish: Three month aged Gorgonzola, blackberries, walnuts, honey with galette
We made it to dessert! Starting off with a cheese – I appreciate a cheese course to ease us from the savory and into the sweet. What is a galatte you ask? Well, it is a a flat round cake and while it can mean different things, for us tonight it was like a crepe or pancake. Atop the galette were blackberries and three chucks of aged gorgonzola. I love a stinky cheese and this had a great bite to it that complimented to sweet elements on the plate such as the fruit and honey.
Wine: Coteaux du Layon — Carte d’Or — Dom. de Baumard– 2015 Loire
I have to admit the wine pours – first – have been great – second – have been full glass pours so I was definitely feeling it by glass six. But oh what an amazing wine glass six was – a late harvest Chenin Blanc – like music to my ears! I love Chenin Blanc and I also love late harvest wines so this was just my perfect combination. This wine added balance to the gorgonzola but I could have just sipped this wine on its own. All the noms!
Dish: Ice cream sandwich
You will have to forgive me as my attention to detail by Pairing 7 was long gone. I do not recall the proper name or how this was described but I do remember eating it (thank goodness for pictures)! On one side of the plate was the ice cream sandwich and the other was a scope of chocolate ice cream. The ice cream sandwich was way better than it needed to be- I do not know what the ingredient was that made up the “bread” of the sandwich but it was the perfect texture and not soggy – the freshness you wish all ice cream sandwich “breads” had. The ice cream in both portions of the dish were simple but executed perfectly. I could have easily raided their entire supply of that chocolate ice cream.
Wine: Rivesaltes — Solera, 30 year — Domaine Vaquer — NV Languedoc-Roussillon
The last wine! And I did take better notes here – this is almost like a French styled sherry where the wines of three different grapes are mixed together to create this wine. There have been some sherries that I have enjoyed but I was not a fan of this one – had too much of the fortified flavor without anything else around it (that I could tell). I took a few sips but after six glasses of wine, I didn’t feel so guilty leaving a little in the glass.
Bonus dessert! Foie Gras Profiteroles caramel sauce, sea salt
Out comes the holy grail of Le Pigeon, the infamous foie gras profiteroles! And with a candle for Kevin’s birthday – thank you Le Pigeon!!! I really was not sure what to expect with this one, turning foie gras into a dessert but here we were. The only way I can describe it was a foie gras ice cream as it had a creamy consistency. It is like when you get random flavors of gelato – this would be one of them. The first bite catches you off guard because it tastes just like foie gras with all the familiarities of ice cream. The puff pastry (that I am sure there’s a new word in this one!) was also fantastic and helped add some sweetness back into the dessert. This really is an innovative dish, worthy of the praise.
Seven pairings complete! A three hour journey with Le Pigeon was a great success. I have to say, I did not feel nearly “disgustingly” full as I would have expected though Kevin begged to differ. The seven course option is a lot of food and wine. One thing we definitely appreciated was the wine pairings. They were all thoughtful, intentional, and spot on for the dish in enhancing the overall flavors. The fact that half the wines were local to the region gave us a mini wine tour of Oregon! And these were probably the heaviest pours we have had at a tasting (a close call with the Victoria and Albert’s meal) – they were all full glass pours! We definitely found this wine pairing addition to be a good value and we don’t always walk away say that.
Overall, definitely consider Le Pigeon on your exploration of Portland. Whether you chose the a la carte chose your own adventure or let the adventure happen to you with one of their two tasting options (five or six courses), you cannot go wrong here. Thank you Le Pigeon for a fantastic evening and helping us celebrate Kevin’s birthday!